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Beef pulled from school-lunch programs

(article, Kim Carlson)

Yesterday the Humane Society of the United States released a video that shows sickened cows being prodded with electric rods, pushed over with forklifts, and otherwise maltreated in an effort to get them to stand up at a California slaughterhouse so they could be inspected and eventually sold as meat — to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for school-lunch programs around the country. Much of the video was shot by an undercover investigator, and much of it is difficult to watch. 

Today, the Oregonian reports that the USDA pulled meat from schools that had been provided by the Westland Meat Company, sister company to Hallmark Meat Packing, where the video of the abused animals was shot. Westland is a major provider of meat to the school-lunch program.

According to the Washington Post, there are two reasons downed cows are not allowed by law to enter the food system: First, they could be sick with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease. Second, their hides could be caked with feces, posing the risk of E. coli or salmonella contamination. By all appearances, the Hallmark Meat Packing company exercises a flagrant disregard for health regulations.

But apart from that, the horrid depictions in the video (and in a companion video on the Humane Society website that explicates the slaughterhouse footage) point at yet another reason why we should not support the continued industrialization of our food supply. If the axiom "you are what you eat" holds any truth, we should be very disturbed: Those inhumanely treated cows are us — or at least our school-lunch-eating children.

(Further, one wonders about the individuals who work as employees of the slaughterhouse. Do their jobs haunt them? Aren't we, as blithe eaters of the animals they handle, complicit in their dehumanization?)